Should I Have My Wisdom Teeth Removed Before I Get Braces?

teenager with toothache

Orthodontic treatment can correct a variety of different dental problems. From crowding to misalignments and even under and overbites, braces are incredibly effective. Before undergoing orthodontic treatment, you may be wondering if you need to have your wisdom teeth removed if you haven’t already. Understanding what wisdom teeth are and speaking to your dentist about your options can help.

What are Wisdom Teeth?

Wisdom teeth are the third set of molars and the last teeth to develop within the mouth. They usually begin to show up on dental x-rays around the time a person is an adolescent. Unfortunately, if you do not have enough room for the wisdom teeth to come in, they can become impacted underneath the gums.

Even if they are able to make it through the gums, they may only partially erupt, which can cause issues with inflammation, infections, and abscessing. Many patients who are undergoing orthodontic treatment with metal braces, clear braces, or invisible braces such as Invisalign, will not have enough room for their wisdom teeth to come in fully while also allowing for complete alignment of the existing teeth.

How Wisdom Teeth Can Affect Your Smile

As wisdom teeth begin to push up through the gums, your other teeth may start to crowd and become crooked in an attempt to allow these teeth to erupt. If the wisdom teeth are impacted horizontally, they can push against the surrounding teeth and cause further orthodontic issues.

For children and young teens who have already worn braces, this can essentially undermine the successful results of orthodontic treatment if the wisdom teeth are left in place. For older teens and adults wanting braces, it might help to remove the wisdom teeth before undergoing treatment to prevent your teeth from shifting over time.

Why Dental Professionals Might Recommend Removing Your Wisdom Teeth

Prior to having braces placed, your dentist or orthodontist may recommend that your wisdom teeth be removed. The reason for this is because your wisdom teeth can potentially prolong or ruin your progress. Even with wearing a nightly retainer, the wisdom teeth will continue to push against surrounding teeth, which could eventually cause root fractures and cracking.

By removing the wisdom teeth, your dental professional can work with a clean slate, and the effects of your braces will be more permanent. Unfortunately, because wisdom teeth won’t begin to come in until the time a patient is about 15 years old or older, children and young teens who underwent orthodontic treatment may find that these third molars become a problem. In this case, it’s vital to remove the wisdom teeth as soon as they are noticed to prevent the patient’s alignment from reverting.

Risks of Leaving Wisdom Teeth Intact During Orthodontic Treatment

There are a variety of risks that can occur during and after orthodontic treatment when your wisdom teeth are not removed. The most obvious risk is that your teeth will shift and become crowded and crooked again. This is simply because the wisdom teeth are pushing up against the surrounding teeth, and they will move in an attempt to make room for the wisdom teeth to come in.

A more serious problem that can occur involves the back teeth cracking and breaking. During and after orthodontic treatment, you’ll be wearing tightly secured appliances or plastic trays that shift your teeth or keep them in place. As the wisdom teeth push against your teeth, and because the teeth are unable to move due to the orthodontic appliances, this can cause significant damage to surrounding teeth. The resulting aftermath involves the need for possible root canals, dental crowns, and even extractions.

The fact that crowding and misalignments can return is reason enough to consider removing your wisdom teeth before getting braces. It would be a waste to undergo months or years of orthodontic treatment only for it to last a few years before braces are needed again. Even with an orthodontic retainer, it can be challenging to keep the teeth as straight as possible with the wisdom teeth pushing against them.

Signs that Your Wisdom Teeth Need to Be Removed

Whether you’re undergoing orthodontic treatment right now, considering it, or are just wondering when you should have your wisdom teeth removed, there are certain signs to look for. Knowing when and if your wisdom teeth are causing a problem can help in determining the need to have them removed.

Some of these signs include:

  • Pain and Tenderness – You may feel as though your whole mouth is sore and tender, and you can’t necessarily pinpoint the source of pain.
  • Inflammation – Your gums at the very back of your mouth may feel swollen, painful, and inflamed. In severe cases, these impacted or partially erupted wisdom teeth can become infected and abscessed.
  • Crowding and Shifting – Your other teeth may begin to shift and become overcrowded in an attempt to allow the wisdom teeth to erupt fully.
  • Headaches and Earaches – You might experience recurrent headaches and earaches without any other probable cause.
  • Bad Breath – Because of inflammation, infection, and possible wisdom tooth-related decay, you may experience persistent bad breath that is almost impossible to get rid of on your own.
  • Damage to Surrounding Teeth – If your wisdom teeth aren’t able to come in fully, they will press against the surrounding teeth. This can result in cracks, fractures, and severe pain and sensitivity. If you have restorations on these surrounding teeth, like crowns or fillings, they may break or become loose.

By removing your wisdom teeth, you can undergo orthodontic treatment without the worry that similar treatment will be needed again in the future. While it might seem scary to think about undergoing oral surgery to remove these third molars, thinking about all of the possible problems that can come as a result of leaving them in is reason enough to schedule a consultation with your dentist.

About the Author

Dr. Scott Futch

Dr. Scott F. Futch, DDS

Dr. Scott Futch has been a clinical director for Absolute Dental since April 2017. Dr. Futch graduated from University of Michigan School of Dentistry and completed his training at the Dawson Academy; a postgraduate multi-disciplinary education clinical research facility dedicated to the advancement of dentistry. Dr. Futch has had over 25 years of experience as a skilled clinician, mentor and coach.

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